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  1. #1
    ODN's Crotchety Old Man

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    Is/Ought - How to We Derive Objective Moral Truths without Objective Facts?

    In many discussions about morality, David Hume's "Is/Ought Problem" is often invoked, especially when any secular moral framework is proposed.

    In short, "is" statements are descriptive (what IS the case), where "ought" statements are normative (what should or ought to be the case). Hume's argument is that you cannot derive what OUGHT to be the case by reference to what IS the case.

    So, assuming there are objective moral truths, how do we derive moral truths in the absence of objective facts about the universe? Are objective moral truths a kind of fact? If so, what other facts support them? Are they self-evident facts i.e. simply brute facts of the universe?

    Discuss

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  3. #2
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    Re: Is/Ought - How to We Derive Objective Moral Truths without Objective Facts?

    Not sure entirely what you mean here...

    Why are there an absence of objective facts about the universe? Aren't those the "is" statements? We seem to have a good many of them about and we can widely agree on many of them.

    I think the best way to break it down is in terms of objectives and means. Objectives are a sort of "is" statement. "Jim feels it is good to be kind to others." then you can derive a behavior that leads to achieving that goal "Jim ought to help people in need when he is able." Oughts are actions that lead to meet an objective.

    Of course, I think people think of the objectives as the morality itself, and they wonder, what moral objectives should we have? And they see that as the ought. But I think that is a type of moral thinking that leads from single authoritative models of morality. AKA God says this is correct behavior so it is a moral value in and of itself. I always found such moral systems too simple minded, aka arbitrary. For me, a good moral system starts wtih principle aims and ends, and then develops a set of behaviors that best lead to those ends.

    As a subjective moralist, I think the objectives themselves arise from our own individual nature (which includes our shared human circumstance). They are in essence an IS observation. This is Sig's moral view, and from that Sig derives what people ought or ought not do.

    I feel like the Is-Ought problem is another highlight of the fact that the whole notion of an objective moral code is largely a fiction of our own making and thus not objective at all.
    Feed me some debate pellets!

  4. #3
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    Re: Is/Ought - How to We Derive Objective Moral Truths without Objective Facts?

    Aristotle derived his virtue ethics from facts about human nature and the function of humans in the world. Eudaimonia, or "the good life", or flourishing, is constituted by excellent fulfillment of that function. (Alasdair MacIntyre gives a similar reading of Aristotle in After Virtue, in which he recommends that ethics be grounded in human nature). Aristotle goes on to describe some of the virtues--justice, prudence, practical wisdom, courage, moderation, magnanimity, etc.

    On this view, ethical values are objective (being derived from human nature, which itself is objective), but possibly contingent, i.e. in possible worlds where human nature is different, there would be different virtues.

    This contrasts with the Christian development of virtue ethics by Aquinas et al. which grounds virtues in Christ / God, beings argued to be necessary. On these views, ethics are objective but necessary, i.e. couldn't have been otherwise, since ethics follows from God's nature, and God's nature couldn't have been otherwise.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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  6. #4
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    Re: Is/Ought - How to We Derive Objective Moral Truths without Objective Facts?

    Quote Originally Posted by OP
    So, assuming there are objective moral truths, how do we derive moral truths in the absence of objective facts about the universe? Are objective moral truths a kind of fact? If so, what other facts support them? Are they self-evident facts i.e. simply brute facts of the universe?
    I would say that objective moral truths would have to be by definition objective facts.
    If it is an objective moral truth that it is immoral to torture for fun. Then it is a fact that it is immoral to torture for fun.

    The question seems to be how do we have access to these facts.
    I would say the first is that we must recognize that we have a "sense" of morality. Just like we have a sense of smell. We must recognize that we are created and designed to perceive these facts.

    However, apart from that another outside and separate line of facts would be divine revelation. Such as the ten commandments.
    got to go.. quick hits.
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